April 10, 2015

Thursday Mistakes

Thursdays are the one day that the class opener uses grade level content. I put scrap paper next to the stamp charts so students grab a quarter sheet of paper as they come in to class. Students answer a question from this course, but not this unit. This week we graphed a line to relate that to graphing exponential functions. Other weeks it's a random problem that students might need to practice. After their three minutes, I follow the My Favorite No routine pretty much exactly. I collect all the scrap paper, I flip through them saying yes or no, I pick my favorite and write it on the board (blue ink):

I ask students what is good. I redirect anyone who wants to tell me the mistake. After we've exhausted correct steps, I ask students where the mistake is. Then we address it and correct it. Most weeks someone asks, "What if we all got it right?" and I tell them, "We celebrate! And no, we don't go over it." That has yet to happen. In fact, if I'm being entirely honest, I had to go back many weeks in my archives to find a good example of this process. Far too often, students either get it right or have so little written it can't be my favorite wrong solution. The reasoning depends on the week, but mostly the lack of attempts boils down to being risk-averse. This week when we were graphing the line a student wrote IDK. I told him he did know (he graphed exponentials using a table perfectly the day before) and he looked at me with defiance. So I suggested looking it up in his notes. He told me he wouldn't know where to look. The instructions said "graph the line" which I finally got him to notice and he found the relevant card. But by that time the timer had gone off - task successfully avoided. Interestingly, he was totally willing to participate in the class discussion that followed. So many of my students have such deeply embedded learned helplessness that we are still doing so much coaxing in April. But every day that a student takes a risk and doesn't experience a negative consequence is another step in the right direction. And I do believe that we are moving in the right direction, inching there, with lots of lapses, but we are building the foundation for future greatness.

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